Romans 6:22-23 – “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
According to Paul in Romans 6:18, those who are in Christ are “slaves of righteousness.” Previously we were “slaves of sin” but now because Christ has set us free from sin, we are slaves of righteousness. For those of us who understand the history of slavery in the United States, thinking of ourselves as slaves in any capacity seems so contrary to what feels right. Paul explains how we could possibly be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). If I drink four cups of coffee per day, I am presenting myself, submitting myself to the slavery of caffeine. If I drink a twelve pack of beer per day, I am submitting myself to the rule of alcohol. If I discipline myself to wake up at 6am every morning to devote the first 30 minutes of my day to prayer and study of God’s Word, I am presenting myself, submitting myself to God’s rule in my life every day.
The problem is that apart from God’s grace poured out through Jesus Christ, we are unable to present ourselves as slaves to anything but sin. Before you start to think of being a slave to sin as being a possibly good thing, remember what Paul said in Romans 6:23. “The wages of sin is death.” The payment for sin is our death. Slavery to sin is death; physical and spiritual death. When Jesus was put to death on the cross, he put to death our sin and he paid the wages of our sin that leads to death. Through Christ, the truth of Romans 6:22 can apply to us. We can now be “set free from sin” and we can become “slaves of God.”
So why is it a good thing to become slaves to God? This is why we must not think of slavery in an oppressive and abusive way like when we think of slavery in the United States. It is good to become slaves to God because that is how we have been created! Imagine being created without legs, or without arms. That is not how God designed us. But being created without arms and legs is a result of the fall. Another result of the fall is that we are created as enemies of God, slaves to sin. That is not how God has created us to live. We have been created to be slaves and servants to God and righteousness.
Consider what Paul also said. The “fruit you get” because we have been set free from sin leads to sanctification and “its end” is “eternal life.” I love what Paul David Tripp says: “God’s call to obey is itself a grace. In this call, he is actively rescuing you from you…His call to obey is a tool of his rescuing grace.” Apart from being called out of slavery to sin, our path is slavery to sin and death itself. It is a remarkable grace of God that not only are we saved from sin, but that we are set free from sin, and that we are enabled to live in right relationship with God. Praise God for his saving grace!